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Pembroke Town Walls

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Penfro; Barnard's Tower; Bernard's Tower

In the community of Pembroke.
In the historic county of Pembrokeshire.
Modern authority of Pembrokeshire.
Preserved county of Dyfed.

OS Map Grid Reference: SM985013
Latitude 51.67364° Longitude -4.91130°

Pembroke Town Walls has been described as a certain Urban Defence.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law*.


The medieval borough of Pembroke (see NPRN 33205) was laid out along a narrow peninsular between two inlets of Milford Haven with the castle crowning the cliffs at the seaward end (NPRN 94945). The walls are thought to have been constructed in the later thirteenth-earlier fourteenth century at a time when the castle reached its present imposing strength. The area enclosed is roughly 850m long and at most 240m wide. The strongest works were those crossing the peninsular to the east, where there was a gate and where the remarkable detached Barnard's or Bernard's tower remains Other gates gave acess to causways across the inlets at the west end below the castle and a fragment of the West Gate still survives. There are remains of four other towers, two of which, overlooking the infilled southern inlet, have eighteenth-nineteenth century gazebos built upon them (see NPRN 266508). (Coflein)

There are substantial remains of the town wall, which runs around the perimeter of the narrow peninsula along which the town lies, with the castle at its tip. The remains include four of the original six flanking towers and part of one of the three gatehouses. The wall dates from the first two decades of the 14th century, but is the latest in a possible sequence of three lines of defence. The first may date to the 12th century and encircle a small area between the castle and the parish church of St Mary. The second appears to have been established midway along the peninsula, probably in the early 13th century, beyond which an extra-mural suburb was established around St Michael's parish church and marketplace. Both these defences were probably of earthwork and timber. The final masonry phase enclosed all elements of the town, and both parish churches. The wall was repaired, and partly rebuilt during the 15th century, but was damaged, and finally slighted as a result of the Civil Wars of the 1640s. (Dyfed Archaeological Trust, 2001)

On the S side of the town extending some 225m E from no. 5 Common Road to Rock Terrace.
The town walls, of probably late C12 to early C13 origin, are shown in Speed's map and on the C17 'French' map, but little of medieval date appears to survive above ground . It is possible that the rear garden walls to properties on both sides of Main Street may either incorporate some foundations of the medieval walls or may be built in several places on their course. The walls along the S side include two medieval towers (Scheduled Ancient Monuments), and are otherwise mostly garden end walls possibly on the foundations of the medieval walls or built on their course. The walls run from No 5 Common Road to Rock Terrace.
Walls, rubble stone, partly built on bedrock. The first section appears to be the S walls of outbuildings built parallel to the old wall line behind Nos. 87-91 Main St.. Straight joint to right of No 5 Common Road and a high rubble wall, with door to right and access ramp up, behind No 87 Main Street, then straight joint and low door to rear garden of No 89 and ramp running down to E, further door at lower level at end of ramp and window with brick head at higher level to right. This section not marked on c. 1865 map. Then a straight joint to a C19 lofted outbuilding (marked on c. 1865 map) with corrugated iron roof, a stone doorway at left and two windows with brick heads. Ramp in front. E end gable has broad entry with high timber lintel. This building probably has the older wall as the back wall as this continues the line of the walls further E. (High separate stone terrace walls in the steep rear garden of Nos. 89-91 and continued E to rear of Tabernacle Chapel). E of the outbuilding described above is a wall of stone rubble behind No 91 which has been broken in the centre for a broad opening, the walling much rebuilt. Behind Tabernacle Congregational Church, a doorway, then an early C19 lime kiln, comprising a semi-circular stone projection with recess on each side giving access to curved pointed kiln-eyes. Behind is an area of rough ground with shallow caves or quarries. High walls running back to chapel S retaining wall, straight joint at foot of E wall, then door and higher section of wall behind No 93, rebuilt wall and another two doors behind Nos. 95 and 97. Garden wall to S of no 99 Main Street is more substantial and has a doorway to left of one of the towers of the medieval town wall. Round rubble stone medieval tower has arrow slots on two levels and overgrown roof possibly vaulted. Tower is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. To right of tower, behind No 101 the wall is set back with a stub wall dividing two recesses, the right one roofed as a garage. The stub wall is curved at the S end of the W side. The c. 1865 map shows a building on this site. Garden door to No 101 to right with earth ramp in front. More substantial walling behind Nos. 103 and 105, the ramp leads up to a doorway; a further ramp against wall of no 105. The walling drops considerably in height to rear of no 107 where there is a vehicular doorway with concrete lintel. A yellow brick passage entry to no 109 Main Street adjoins this. The garden wall to rear of no 111 Main Street is much higher; a lateral ramp leads up to stone doorway at W end. Here too, a further Scheduled Ancient Monument, comprising the base of a medieval bastion, rubble stone with loop each floor on S, arched door with stone voussoirs to E and loop over. Interior lined in C20 blockwork. Built on to bastion is gazebo formerly part of garden of No 111. Later C18, restored in late C20, deteriorating 2004. Two-storey octagon with pebbledashed stone rubble walls with stucco quoins and window surrounds. Octagonal pagoda roof of shaped slates with ball finial. It formerly had a wooden eaves cornice, replaced with iron gutters, partly missing 2004. In N E, S and W faces, there are renewed sash windows, long 12-pane in the upper storey, and, in W, S and E faces, short 9-pane sashes. To E of the bastion and gazebo, a short length of overgrown high wall as far as No 4 Rock Terrace. (Listed Building Report)

Barnard's Tower: a big, three-storeyed, round tower standing outside the north-east angle of the town and joined to it by a four-sided entrance or fore-building, rather lower in height; its external diameter is 29'6" (8.99 m.) the walls 7'3" (2.10 m) thick. The whole forms of powerful spur-work flanking the eastern defences. The sill of the door is head-high above the approach, reached my modern steps. It seems likely there was a bridge-pit, here strange as it may seem. The pointed arch of the heavily-barred doorway opens into a vaulted passage. On the right hand going in there is a very small latrine chamber carried externally on massive corbels and discharging alongside the eastern wall the town. Next, a simple arrowslit on the left; then the chase and grooves for a portcullis - a most unexpected feature. Beyond this a blocked arrowslit on the right; then, on the left, the entrance to the newel stair, the timber flooring has been lost overhead is visible the stone dome of the tower.
The character of Barnard's tower is interesting. With its windows, fireplace and latrine, it is a comfortably arranged set of quarters by mediaeval standards; with the portcullis, a bridge of some and barred doors, it was a separate stronghold; one might almost call it Pembroke Castle No. 2. It would seem that the earl wished to keep one of his officers here, at the exposed end of the town and half a mile from the castle, giving him strong and habitable quarters. (Abridged from King and Cheshire 1982)

Clearly there are difficulties with the dating of the town walls. The site is natural strong and would not need much work to make it defensible. The town was not attacked during the wars of the C13, Soulsby writes 'no doubt because of the sheer impregnability of the site'. However, walls and, particualrly gates, would have increased the defensibility and also enhanced the town status and tax collection effectiveness. Soulsby writes 'Medieval Pembroke was a prosperous community with a viable commercial life' but walls did not protect the town from decline of maritime trade (lost to Haverfordwest) and like many towns in Wales it declined in the C15, although this decline cannot, as it usually is, be blamed on the Glynd r revolt, since Pembroke was not attacked.
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This record last updated 26/10/2016 08:08:15